By: Brandon Seifert (story), Karl Moline (pencils), Rick Magyar (inks), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colors)

The Story: We’re going to the Museum of the Weird!  Because we can’t afford Disneyland!

The Review: As an Orange County resident, I’ve had my share of Disneyland trips, and much as I appreciate the magic and fun at work there, it’s hard not to see through the highly manicured, studio-set quality of the place.  The various theme parks are not so much original works of imagination as they are amalgamations of their respective genres: adventure, sci-fi, western, fantasy, etc.  At best, Disneyland offers backdrops for stories, not stories themselves.

So it strikes me as a little ill-conceived that someone would attempt to use Disneyland as a source of inspiration for not just one story, but a whole ongoing series.  Talk about craven commercialism.  Still, there is a dearth of pure adventure titles on the market right now, and if there’s one thing Disney has proven pretty darn good at, it’s in delivering pure adventure, without any overly complicated strings attached.  Turns out, though, that you can complicate things by making them too simple, too.

The cover of the issue indicates that the series is geared toward “All Ages,” which is always a kind of deadly goal for storytelling.  Most of the time, you either end up with a product that’s too generic and cliché for adults, or else too nuanced and grim for kids.  This issue easily falls into the former category, though at certain points it rolls over into the latter one as well.

Take our young protagonists, Melody and Maxwell Keep.  They fit almost perfectly into the contrasting siblings mold—boy, girl; nerd, jock; cautious, bold; calm, excitable; the parents’ favorite, the black sheep—but for all that, neither has a truly distinctive personality or backstory to get attached to.  In the beginning, they spend too much time preoccupied with their grades, and once the story picks up, there’s no time to learn more about who they are and what they do.

This lack of context may be the issue’s greatest failing.  More often than not, what we know about the Keep family and their line of work comes from passing suggestions than any serious exploration.  If it wasn’t for a caption describing Keep It Weird as the Keeps’ “curio store,” we’d have no idea what it is they did for a living, and other than Mr. and Mrs. Keep’s obsession with scholastic achievement, Seifert gives us no other details about their parenting—which makes you none too sorry when they get carried off by flying taxidermy a few pages later.

By far the issue’s biggest misstep is in its whirlwind introduction and—spoiler alert, I guess—disposal of Roland, a Johnny Depp figure who serves as Max and Mel’s erstwhile uncle, the one their parents shun but who obviously turns out to be the coolest member of the family.  It just seems ridiculous for Seifert to give Roland such a dramatic entrance, only to bump him off just as dramatically a dozen pages later.  Why Seifert didn’t end on Roland’s appearance and spend the rest of the issue fleshing out the Keep family, I don’t know.*

In cases like this, the artist has a lot of power to redeem an otherwise bland script, but while Moline is a fine artist with a pleasing, flexible line, his powers of imagination are distinctly lacking.  Much like a ride at one of Disneyland’s theme parks, his choice of details looks like a bunch of archival props cobbled together on a prayer that they’ll somehow stick.  There’s very little of anything like original design in the issue.  For comparison purposes, look at Victor Ibáñez’s endless series of wonderfully crafted objects in Zatanna #16.  Now that’s what a house of supernatural curios should look like.

Conclusion: Overall, it’s just a mish-mash of vaguely formed parts that never quite gel into an appealing whole.  I give the series a couple more issues to stay off the Drop List.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Although I suspect that it probably has something to do with Seifert not giving a rat’s ass about these characters who were most likely foisted on him by someone higher up in the Disney management line.  But this is pure speculation.